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I rise before the others the next morning and decide to scope out the area, alone, thankfully.

I gingerly lead Shadow toward the barn door and open it just enough to squeeze through with her.

Outside is a war zone, with the exception of the seemingly untouched barn. I lead Shadow past digos impaled on the splintered remnants of trees and debris scattered about, before climbing on her back and patrolling the perimeter.

It's quiet, and I like quiet. Based on the looks of the walkers out back, there was at least a few miles radius of quiet like this, at least for now. The real threat was whoever is following this group.

Anxiety metastasizes deep in my gut and I wonder for a split second if they finally found me. I hadn't seen any traces of the Saviors for at least four months, and yet Negan was the first thing on my mind when I woke and the last thing on my mind when I slept.

That being said, a gift of precious resources wasn't really Negan's style.

I breathe in the cool, wet morning air. The last rain had happened the prior spring, when I was with him.

"And what happens when our friends don't keep their promises?" Negan paces the Hilltop plaza as the frightened residents look on. "Anybody?" The earth is muddy from that morning's drizzle, and the blood spatter on Lucille mixes with mud.

Gregory, who I've come to recognize as the cowardly Hilltop leader, avoids eye contact at all costs. Jesus pressed his lips together in a thin line, barely concealing a glare.

Negan turns on his heels to me, a sadistic grin plastered across his smug face. "Nora. Wanna give them a hint?"

I grab the nearest Hilltop farmer and force her to her knees, holding a cruelly curved blade to the soft underside of her jaw. She blubbers, but dares not swallow for fear of the closeness of my blade.

"Please, I have a son, I-" Tears stream down her face and she sniffles loudly. I pull her ponytail aggressively.

"Shut up." I utter as she yells.

"You said you wouldn't hurt anyone!" Jesus cries out, taking a step forward, green eyes wide. "You-" Another Savior shoves him back, and he falls to the ground.

"Aha!" Negan turns to Jesus with a patronizing look of amazement. "Always a smart cookie, this one!" He rests Lucille on his shoulder and kicks some muddy gravel cheerily. "I said I wouldn't hurt anyone... Just like you said you would gather the things I asked for. And seeing as though you didn't keep your word, I just think it's a little entitled for you to think I would keep mine," He pauses, scratching his head. "Are you picking up what I'm laying down?" He turns to the woman. "You understand, sweetheart, right?" He kneels in front of the woman. "You know where they're stockpiling the goodies, don't you?" He encourages her in a sickly sweet tone.

"Please..." She croaks, my knife drawing a pinprick of blood.

He looks at her expectantly, so I grab her ear, digging my nails into it and twisting it harshly. She cries out, reaching toward the pain through tears. "He asked you a question." I demand.

The woman continues blubbering, to our mutual annoyance.

"I'm waiting..." Negan draws out in a song song voice as he leans on Lucille.

I pull the woman's ear away from her head and slice it off in one fluid motion. She wails in pain, clutching at the bloody mess on the side of her head. "Maybe she didn't hear you," I hold out the disembodied ear to Negan emotionlessly, holding the woman upright by the back of her shirt collar.

Negan laughs in delight, taking the ear and turning to the other Saviors with a grin, waving it about. "This is why I like Nora, always the mediator!" He puts the bloodied ear inches from his mouth, staring Jesus down. "I SAID, WHERE DID YOU PUT MY FUCKIN FOOD?"

The sound of voices interrupts my thoughts and I send Shadow to the tree-line, crouching behind a rusted pickup truck with no tires. I can just make out Sasha and Maggie behind a tree, speaking to a man whose back is to me. Their weapons are drawn, and that's all I need to know. I stalk silently towards him and take out his knees from behind, shoving him face down into the earth. I press my knee into his back, my blade to his throat.

"Wait, leave him be! He said he isn't even armed," Maggie holsters her weapon, but the other woman keeps hers drawn.

I roll my eyes as I pat the man down. "Yeah, I kill walkers with my good intentions too." I immediately unzip his inside jacket pocket when I feel the familiar weight of a weapon. I go to empty the clip, but realize, "It's a flare gun," I muse.

"I told you-" The man begins.

"Shut up." I snarl, unzipping his backpack and dumping the contents on the ground, one hand sorting the contents and the other still holding a knife to his neck. To my surprise, there is only food and water, a map, some film photographs , and a crappy pocket knife.

"Are you satisfied?" Maggie asks in exasperation.

I nod once, letting the man stand. He turns to me "I'm Aaron." He puts out his hand. "I haven't seen you before, you are?"

"Not your friend." I ignore his handshake and put one of the jars of applesauce in his outstretched palm, turning to Maggie and Sasha. "Now what?"

Sasha shrugs. "He was just telling us about his community, talking about maybe we can go there." She has a permanent look of vigilance on her face, but I see a flicker of hope in her eyes. Foolish.

Maggie helps Aaron collect his things from the ground. "You know the group needs something, anything. You've seen them."

I squeeze the handle of my spear. "So you're just gonna follow him?"

Maggie shakes her head. "I'll take him to the group, see what Rick thinks."

"Just like that?" I question, raising an eyebrow.

Sasha scoffs. "Well what would you do?"

I look Aaron in the eye. "Definitely kill him." He swallows, looking between the three of us wordlessly.

Maggie crosses her arms. "He's unarmed, I told you."

I shift from one foot to the other. "I bet his friends aren't."

"What friends?" Sasha narrows her eyes at Aaron.

"Why would he carry a flare gun if not to make sure someone knows where he is?" I question. "I should walk the perimeter." I whistle lowly and shadow trots from the edge of the forest, bobbing her head as she approaches.

The two women look at Aaron accusingly. "You said you were alone,"

He puts his hands up in surrender "No, wait!" He tries to appeal to the other two, obviously having lost hope in me. "I am alone...I just have one person out there doing the same thing as me."

"So... Not alone." I drum my fingers on my spear, swinging my leg over Shadow's back.

Aaron blinks nervously. "Sasha, Maggie, and uh, miss, all of this can be explained, just, please, take me to Rick?"

The two women and I exchange glances at the revelation he knows their names.

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